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Looking at faith with the possibility of humour

Latest volume of Braemor Series launched

What might happen to our faith if we approached it open to the possibility of humour? This is the central question posed by the Revd Dr Ian Mills, author of the latest volume of the Braemor Series, The Hermeneutics of Humour: A Serious Look at the Lighter Side of Faith. The book, which is the 11th in the Braemor Series, was launched last Wednesday (November 20) in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute by the Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, the Very Revd William Morton.

Dr Kenneth Milne, Canon Dr Maurice Elliott, Dean William Morton, the Revd Dr Ian Mils, Bryan Whelan and Dr Susan Hood at the launch of Braemor 11 in CITI.
Dr Kenneth Milne, Canon Dr Maurice Elliott, Dean William Morton, the Revd Dr Ian Mils, Bryan Whelan and Dr Susan Hood at the launch of Braemor 11 in CITI.

The book aims to stimulate thought around humour and faith by examining and redressing several preconceptions and presuppositions. Dr Mills retraces some historical encounters between Christianity and humour and establishes some philosophical bases for the Church’s encounter with humour in the present day. He also turns to scripture, arguing that humour is a divine attribute and explores humour as revealed in biblical texts suggesting that humour is a useful and hitherto undervalued interpretive tool. He concludes by considering what a theology of humour for the Church of Ireland might look like, particularly in advancing the Church’s pastoral ministry, informing its preaching, leadership and its ability to share the faith.

The Braemor Series features selected final year dissertations of MTh Students in CITI and the Institute’s Director, Canon Dr Maurice Elliott, explained that the publications aim to make theology more widely available within the Church of Ireland. He added that while the topic of Breamor 11 may be novel, the treatment was refined.

Launching the book Dean William Morton said reading it had prompted him to think of the indispensability of humour in church life. He said that the author had put his finger on the essence of humour which arose from incongruity and was a sabbatical from reality. He said that Dr Mills points out the necessity of humour in pastoral care and the need for humour in defusing awkward moments.

“I commend Ian heartily on the well researched presentation in this book … I wouldn’t doubt that God has a good chuckle about our failure to see the funny side of things,” he commented. The Dean added that the book encourages the reader to look for the humour in everyday situations, spend time with humourous people, to pray humourously and to read scripture with an openness to God’s sense of humour. “If we do all these I think that church life and so much of our world would take on a new meaning,” he concluded.

Speaking on behalf of the Literature Committee, which oversees Church of Ireland Publishing, Dr Ken Milne said the committee attached great importance to the Braemor Series. “It’s very important to the Church that people write. But if they write, they want to be published. That’s where Church of Ireland Publishing can help,” he explained.

Dr Mills, who is curate in Larne and Inver, said the point of his dissertation had not been “to go on a treasure hunt for the funny parts of faith but rather to ask what might happen to our faith if we approached it with the possibility of humour”. He said that humour had something to say to the theologian, the pastor and the preacher and he had set about exploring why humour and faith were such uncomfortable bed fellows. “The hope is to map a theology of humour and how humour might influence our pastoral care, preaching and liturgy,” he commented. The author thanked all who had supported him in the publication of the volume.

Report and photo by Lynn Glanville, Communications Officer for Dublin & Glendalough

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